Republican candidate for U.S. Senate George Allen pointed to high gas prices as a key concern during a recent stop in Sterling and said offshore drilling is the solution to not only lower fuel prices, but also create jobs.
“The high gas prices are really hurting people that to drive long ways to work,” he said while stopping at a Super Tuesday primary poll in Loudoun, a suburban county with lots of daily commuters.
The comments came as Republican candidates for president are shifting the focus of their rhetoric from the economy, which many feel is poised for at least a mild recovery, to gas prices, which have been inching toward $4 in Loudoun.
People are “concerned, aggravated and frustrated with Washington,” Allen said, primarily because the United States is not taking advantage of its own resources. “There ought to thank go we have so many energy resources.”
He said on his first day back in congress—Allen lost the seat to Jim Webb six years ago after one term in office—he would push vigorously to cut through federal red tape to allow drilling for oil and natural gas off Virginia’s coast. More than a third of the royalties could be used for road and transportation improvements, he said.
Such drilling has resulted in jobs and tax revenue in other states, the former governor said.
“Talk to Louisiana, Alabama and Texas. For those states, it’s jobs,” he said, referring to the benefits he believed offshore drilling would bring to Virginia. “The point is, we are getting the energy from America. The benefits are for folks here. We’re less vulnerable to hostile outside forces. We’ll have more affordable fuel. That makes our country more competitive for jobs. We keep our money here in the United States of America.”
Allen criticized President Barack Obama’s actions on the Keystone Pipeline Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked an attempt to expedite the pipeline this week. The Obama administration earlier this year denied a permit to construct the line, citing environmental concerns.
Environmental concerns are high on the minds of opponents to offshore drilling, particularly after the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“You learn from the gulf. I don’t defend that,” Allen said, adding that he fully believes companies should be held accountable for their spills. In addition, he said oil exploration companies continue to learn from past mistakes and employ the best technologies and processes to prevent future disasters.
“We should use the best technological approaches,” the candidate said, but also added, “I think regulations need to be reasonable.”
The BP spill dumped nearly 5 million barrels oil into the Gulf of Mexico, making it largest unintentional offshore oil spill in history based on the amount spilled. The only larger spill, occurred when the Iraqi army dumped oil into the Persian Gulf during the first Gulf War. Eleven men also died in the accident related the BP spill.
Allen said he understands that drilling safely can be expensive.
“It’s not as if offshore exploration is inexpensive. It’s very expensive,” he said. “They need to comply with all the safety requirements. It definitely takes a lot of money.”
He said such precautions “are why fuel costs so much.”
While Allen and Democrat Tim Kaine are acting, and may be perceived by many, as if they are their party nominees, both face primary elections in June. State Del. Bob Marshall (R-13) and Jamie Radtke have both been campaining for the Republican nomination against Allen.